We’ve been talking about two versions of the same story in my History of Youth Literature class, and it reminded me of this short story I wrote for a test I gave my students last year on transition words. I wrote it after reading the book Ugly by Donna Jo Napoli, so I’m pretty sure her version influenced mine. It’s not complete because students were supposed to write their own endings for the last part of the test, so feel free to write some endings of your own!
Once upon a time, there was a duckling who was bigger and uglier than his brothers and sisters. As a result, his brothers and sisters all made fun of him. The sad little duckling always wanted to be first in line behind his mother, but his brothers and sisters always pushed him to the end of the line. Even though he was bigger than his siblings, he never fought back against them. As soon as the others got big enough, they pushed him out of the nest to make him live on his own. Their mother tried to stop him from going, but he knew that he was not wanted.
The little duckling had a hard time living on his own. No matter how hard he tried, or how far he walked, he could not find a place where the other ducks would welcome him. However, he knew that he had to find water; otherwise, he would die, because not only did water quench his thirst, but it also provided his favorite foods with what they needed to grow. Without water, he was truly lost.
Finally, the duckling found his way to a small pond. There were no ducks in this pond. Instead, there were large, white birds with long necks. “You’re a beautiful duck,” said the duckling shyly.
“I am not a duck,” said the bird. “I,”—he paused for emphasis—“am a swan.” The swan held out the middle of the word “swan” so long that it sounded as if it had two syllables.
“What’s a ‘soo-wahn’?” asked the duckling.
The swan laughed disdainfully. “Why, that is what you are, my dear boy.”
The duckling was confused for a moment, then looked down at his reflection through the reeds and grasses that grew along the edge of the pond. He stepped back in surprise. Looking back at him was a bird that looked just like the other birds that had gathered at the pond. But if all swans were like the one he just talked to, I would rather be alone, thought the duckling to himself.
Meanwhile, his duck family had started to miss him in the months that he had been gone. He had been ugly, but he had done a good job of cutting up grasses for the others to eat. Moreover, he had been so big that the other ducks stayed away from them; consequently, they always had a lot of space to swim and play out on the pond. After talking it over, his brothers and sisters decided to set out on a search for their long-lost brother.
How do you think the story will end?